The Departure - Max Richter

The Departure - Max Richter

The Departure - Max Richter is one of the most popular and acclaimed solo piano pieces of the 21st century. It was inspired by the famous story of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce's Ulysses and written to commemorate the centenary of the novel in 2004. The intensely melodic music creates an ethereal atmosphere and evokes Joyce's narrative sense of nostalgia and longing.

History and Release

Max Richter's The Departure was a commissioned piece written for a school summer project at Oxford. He was inspired by Joyce's Ulysses and the idea of exploring the relationship between the recounted and the lived in the narrative. The piece had its world premiere in 2005 at a performance of the note contemporary music ensemble in London. The acclaimed scoring has since been performed around the world in various concerts and theatre shows. It was also featured in the soundtrack of the 2017 film Logan, directed by James Mangold, and the Academy Award nominated documentary film Forever.

Analysis of Composition

The Departure is a four-minute solo piano piece. Its main theme, a compound of two bars, is repeated in various forms throughout the piece. Its mood alternates between a playful and a contemplative one. Richter's writing shows a mastery of the modern classical idiom and its development, the repetition of the main theme in multiple sections allowing the audience to get acquainted with the material and absorb the piece's emotional message. The piece is later enlivened with dynamic and pulse increasing motifs, followed by chords and ostinato figures in the bass-line.

Popularity of the Piece

The Departure has earned Max Richter a multitude of awards, including the 2005 British Composer award and the 2008 Isang Yun award. It is widely popular with audiences of all ages, and has been performed at festivals, concert halls and universities around the world. Its minimalist composition and emotional story have made it widely accessible and greatly appreciated by classical music enthusiasts and newcomers alike. Moreover, its appearance in film, television and theatre has brought even more attention to the piece.


The Departure is an achievement of Max Richter's modern classical idiom, combining heartfelt story and masterful writing. Its numerous live performances and film appearances have quickly made the piece one of the most popular solo piano pieces of the 21st century.

Publication date: 18. 02. 2023